Showing posts from June, 2019

Plants Saved WWII - Judith Sumner

MUST-HEAR TALK Free and open to public
Plants Go To War: A Botanical History of World War II
July 8, 7 pm, Tulsa Garden Center
Judith Sumner speaking
Info Sandy Dimmitt-Carroll 918.693.9416

Today, many medications are manufactured in China but in the years leading up to the war, they came from Amsterdam. When Germany seized Holland, herbs were compounded as replacements.  During WWII small gardens were planted across the US and England to feed the people at home, resulting in 40% of Americans’ food coming from Victory Gardens. US-produced meat and crops went to the troops while vegetarianism soared to 95% on the home front. 
In a recent telephone interview, author Judith Sumner talked about her new book, “Plants Go to War”. Sumner grew up hearing about plant compounds, rubber scarcity, synthetic tires, synthetic chewing gum for soldiers’ ration packs, and more, from her father who was an Army chemist.
Sumner’s book outlines WWII agriculture, from identifying war needs to the discoverie…

Gooseneck Loosestrife or Icicle Speedwell or Culver's Root Light Up Shade

Gooseneck Loosestrife, Lysmachia clethroides, is one of those plants that generates an emotional reaction among gardeners, with responses ranging from appreciation to a level of dread akin to seeing Frankenstein on Halloween.  This maligned Lysmachia came from China and Japan and loves the growing conditions in the US so much that it enthusiastically spreads out its rhizomes throughout the beds where it lives. 

It is a perennial that disappears during the winter and returns double its size the next spring. The plants are 2 or 3-feet tall and have a characteristic plume of flowers in June or July, depending on where in its zone 3 to 8 range it is growing.

In a wild or difficult shady to part-shade location the white flowers light up the darkness and experienced gardeners understand that they may have to control its spread each spring by removing plants that stray from their intended spot. 

They prefer moist soil and thrive near ponds or wet meadows and naturalize there. They are less like…

Native Elderberry is Sambucus Canadensis

One plant resource calls native Elderberry, Sambucus Canadensis, a multi-purpose plant, and indeed it is. The flowers feed pollinators, the berries feed birds, the shrubs provide habitat and humans have used the plant in dozens of ways for hundreds of years. 

Loaded with vitamins A, B and C plus some iron, the black, blue or red berries can be made into juice, concentrate, wine, jelly and medicinal concoctions. Although wildlife enjoys it, the raw fruit should not be consumed by humans. 

Elderflower water was on Victorian women’s dressing tables. They used it for baths and to maintain a soft complexion.  Elderflower tea was thought to calm the nerves, purify the blood, treat bronchitis and cure measles.

Commercially available Elderflower syrup is made from a flower extract. In Romania a beverage called socata is made by brewing the flowers with water, yeast and lemon, then fermenting it to create carbonation. Coca-Cola’s version is called Fanta Shokata.

Elderberries are made into syrup, j…

Crinum Lilies are Amaryllis

In some parts of the US, a Cemetery Lily is a Peace Lily but in the South, if someone talks about a Cemetery Lily they mean a Crinum Lily. Crinums stand up to heat, drought, rain and most soil types, all the while blooming for decades without care.

Like other Amaryllis, Crinums have strap-like leaves and produce multiple, fragrant flowers on each stalk. During their heyday in the 1920s and 1950s they were planted around homesteads and graveyards and many of those are still thriving. 

Originally from Africa, Central and South America, they are only cold hardy as far north as zone 7 where we live. Even here they can be vulnerable in cold years so apply a protective layer of organic mulch. Crinums do not need to be divided, 

Bulbs planted now will bloom next year. I’m tucking some in this month to give them an early start in warm soil. 

Crinum Lilies want full to part-sun. They do not need fertilizer but will not be harmed by receiving some nutrients if you are fertilizing an entire bed. Oth…

Old-fashioned Flowers from a Pack of Seeds

When you first became aware of flowers they probably included roses, zinnias, wisteria, iris, pansy, snapdragons, and peonies. There are many hybrids now but the old-fashioned flowers are making a comeback because they are so easy to grow. 
In the 1950s, Cosmos were vegetable garden companion flowers that brought pollinators. Cosmos means harmony and balance in Greek, and to the Victorians they signified modesty. Their original single ray flowers may have been replaced by 40 new varieties ( but the originals are still lovely.
Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena, is a European native.  They have powder blue, dark blue, pink and white flowers with a mist of foliage in the middle. After they are visited by bees and butterflies, the seed capsule forms a little ball on a stem that is used in dried flower arrangements. Mediterranean native Love-in-a-mist is a long lasting vase flower. (
Spider Flower, Cleome hassleriana, has globes of airy pink and …